(1894) Pterocles senegallus.
THE SPOTTED SAND-GROUSE.
Tetrao senegallus Linn., Mantessa, p. 526 (1771) (Senegal). Pteroclurus senegallus. Blanf & Oates, iv. p. 61.
Vernacular names. Nango Katingo, Gutu (Sind.); Kara-pat-gutu (Jacobabad).
Description. Crown and whole upper plumage isabelline to isabelline-grey, the upper tail-coverts and sometimes the rump suffused with chrome-buff; edge of forehead, lores and round the eye grey, produced as far back as the nape, where it forms a collar and below a fainter collar surrounding the yellow ochre of the chin, throat, sides of head and neck ; scapulars isabelline-brown at the base, changing to a grey penultimate band with buff or ochre tips; lesser wing-coverts dull isabelline-brown with buff tips; the innermost all buff on the visible parts; greater and median coverts isabelline buff, with brown shafts and brownish tips; primaries the same, all but the first three tipped and edged with buff on the inner webs; secondaries brown, narrowly edged with buff on the outer webs at the ends and gradually changing until the innermost are like the scapulars, but always with yellow ochre— not buff—tips; breast, flanks and abdomen isabelline-pink, the centre of the last black; under tail-coverts white or pale buff with brown bases; central tail-feathers like the back but with the prolongations dusky black ; outer tail-feathers brown with broad white tips, each succeeding pair with more and more white; tarsi buff.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown ; orbital skin yellow; bill bluish-white to bluish-grey or pale plumbeous, darker at the tip; feet bluish-white to pale plumbeous, claws blackish.
Measurements. Wing 190 to 208 mm.; tail 127 to 167 mm. ; tarsus 23.0 to 25.5 mm.; culmen 11.5 to 12.5 mm. Weight up to 12 oz.
Female. Upper plumage, wing-coverts and inner secondaries a rather darker isabelline than in the male, the head with fine dark streaks; the rest of the upper parts boldly spotted with dark brown or blackish, these spots boldest and largest and often tinged with grey on the scapulars and inner secondaries, which are also tipped with chrome-yellow; the grey of the head in the male is replaced by white, marked with blackish : underparts like the male but the breast duller and spotted with black.
Measurements. Wing 176 to 197 mm. Weight up to 9 oz.
Nestling. Head, cheeks and ear-coverts a mixture as in alchala, but the ginger-like element much paler ; back and scapulars pale sandy-yellow with heavy black tips; underparts isabelline-white.
Distribution. Algeria, through N. Africa and parts of the Sahara, North and South Nubia and Egypt, Arabia etc. to Afghanistan, Baluchistan and N.W. India. In India it is common in Sind and East of the Indies but more rare on the West. It is not rare in the Rann of Cutch and extends to Jeysulmere, Jodhpur and the Shapur District of the Punjab.
Nidification. The only definite records of this bird's breeding in India are first that of Pearson, who took two clutches of three eggs each at Kotri on May the 16th, and recently that of R. C. Bolster, who obtained young a few days old and saw others half grown in the Punjab near Ahmadpur, about 30 miles from the Indus. I have also three oviduct eggs of birds shot in Sind, where it most undoubtedly breeds regularly.
Outside our limits it breeds in many places in Mesopotamia and eggs were obtained by G. Tomlinson, Pitman, Cox and Cheesman. Unlike the larger Sand-Grouse, alchata, which likes a little thin cover, this bird seems to prefer absolute bare mudflats, depositing its three eggs either in a scratching or else on the fiat ground without any protection of bush or grass from the sun. The eggs are rather dull-coloured, the ground fairly warm grey- or yellow-stone colour, the markings small blotches and irregular spots of light reddish- or yellowish-brown scattered sparsely over the whole surface. Underlying these are still more scanty markings of pale inky purple. The shape is the usual elliptical shape of all Sand-Grouse. Thirty-one eggs average 40.6 x 28.3: maxima 48.5 x 28-0 and 41.6 x 30.2 mm.; minima 36.3 x 27.1 and 38.1 x 26.6 mm.
It is difficult to say what is the breeding-season. Oviduct eggs have been taken in February, March and April and again in August. Pearson took his eggs at Kotri in June, whilst Pitman, Tomlinson, Cox and Cheesman took others in Mesopotamia from May to August.
Habits. The Spotted Sand-Grouse is an inhabitant of the bare desert or the wide baked mud-flats so common in Mesopotamia. Often it seems impossible for the birds to find food, yet they remain fat and strong and their crops seem to be always full of the tiny seeds which form their staple food. They drink regularly late in morning and again in the evening but often remain and breed in the open country many miles, fifty or more, from their drinking-place. Their flight is as swift as that of the other Sand-Grouse— they are active on the ground and swim well. When drinking they freely enter the water and, when breeding, soak their breasts and thus take back water to their young. The call is expressed in the name "Gutu" and Ticehurst syllabifies it as " quiddle guiddle."